This is a story I would rather not write.
Sure, I am happy for Robert Geller, who next week will become the new track announcer at famed Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. But selfishly, I wanted him to remain at Emerald Downs longer, like forever.
Geller, with his distinctive Australian accent, has been the voice of Emerald Downs since the track opened in 1995. Boy, am I going to miss hearing that voice.
As an announcer, it was clear for years he was good enough to announce at the highest levels of the industry, and now he will be doing that at one of North America’s most prominent racetracks.
Here, Geller was like a major-leaguer playing for a Class AAA club.
He brought a unique flair to his calls, and was not above cracking a joke in mid-race or taking a jab at horse that was lagging well behind or was racing erratically.
His accuracy is amazing. He is a man who obviously does his homework. And I am not sure if I ever remember him making a wrong call at the finish. In races where horses finished noses apart, he seemed to always know which one finished first, even if no one else in the building did.
While his high level of announcing will be missed, he meant so much more than that to Emerald Downs. He was always approachable, perpetually upbeat and seemingly never serious, yet when it came to doing his job well, he was dead serious.
One snapshot from last Saturday gives a glimpse into what Geller means to Emerald Downs. I was waiting for him to finish analyzing that day’s races to interview him, but there was a line in front of me. As he stepped down from the podium, a lady gave him a gift, then while getting teary, gave him a big hug . Then came another hug and another emotional good-bye. A man then came up to shake his hand and thank him.
There is something special about the connection of a racetrack announcer with the fans. It’s comparable to the connection that a radio baseball announcer has with his listeners. Geller is to Emerald Downs fans what Dave Niehaus was to Mariners fans.
No one, it seems, wants him to go.
Not even my father.
My dad is the most loyal person I know. He loved Gary Henson when he was the announcer at Longacres in Renton, and for the first few years of Emerald Downs, my dad was bitter that Henson was not there.
But Geller won my father over, just like he did everyone else.
My father says there will never be another one like him.
In this case, Dad is right.
Scott Hanson is a sports desk editor who covers golf and horse racing for The Seattle Times.
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